MCCS' Bengali channel to be co-branded; looking for April-May launch

MUMBAI: The Bengali new year, 15 April, has good news for, who else but, Bengalis. A proposed Bengali channel from the ABP Group-Rupert Murdoch combine is on its way, scheduled to be put on air late April or early May, while plans for foraying into select other Indian languages, including English, are being spruced up.

The 24-hour Bengali news channel will also be co-branded. This lays to rest speculations on the channel not carrying the Star brand name.

"We are expecting the formalities to be completed very soon, including getting an uplink permission from India. After that happens, it will be just a matter of time before we put the Bengali channel on air. Internally, we are ready," Media Content & Communications Services India Pvt. Ltd (MCCS) CEO Uday Shankar told Indiantelevision in an interview.

MCCS, a 74:26 per cent joint venture between the Aveek Sarkar-controlled Kolkata-based ABP Group and Murdoch-promoted Star Group, manages Star News channel. It has ambitions of creating a bouquet of select other Indian language-specific news channels.

Dwelling on the company's expansion plans, Shankar said that the company has drawn up plans to consolidate its position with Star News even while tapping regional language markets with channels that would have a "national outlook."

"We are in the process of evaluating what should be the next move after the Bengali channel is put on air. But we certainly have lined up several activities for this year," he added, hinting that MCCS is investing afresh in technology, human resources and, may be, even in distribution activities.

Meanwhile, trusted Sarkar aide, Suman Chattopadhyay, will be the executive editor for the proposed Bengali channel, which is being kept in the unencrypted free-to-air mode. "The present regulatory set-up does not make sense for us to go pay and get inadequate subscription revenue," Shankar explained.

BBC's design arm BBC Broadcast Design, which was instrumental in providing a new look for Star News in February, will be responsible for the graphics and on-air look of the Bengali channel too.

On the programming front, the proposed channel will have a blend of programming that is aimed at attracting Bengali speaking audiences nationally. However, due focus on local (West Bengal-specific) news too would be given as MCCS would like to capitialise on the ABP Group strong presence in eastern India.

The Kolkata-based company publishes The Telegraph in English and the widely circulated Bengali newspaper Ananda Bazar Patrika, both of whom have the ambition to be national dailies.

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